Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Snow is such a novelty here on our island.  To be sure, it's not like Australia, where Mark grew up, where they read stories about snowmen and Santa and reindeer and all the countless winter-based traditions we take for granted while they sweltered in 110' heat and mall Santas arrived in emergency rooms regularly.  But, still, we're "cool," not "cold," here generally.

Not this year.  This year, it's snow, snow, snow and all the grown-ups are flummoxed.  There's ice on the roads, snow in the fields, more snow in the forecast, and we're all, well, at a loss.  Huh?  Do we chain?  Do we board-game?  Where is the tipping point at which school just becomes Too Much Hassle?

For us, as farmers, the biggest weird thing is making sure our sheep and chickens have water.  In the coastal Pacific Northwest, we rarely worry about water.  Too much mud, hoof-rot, mineral-deficiencies, yes.  But, unless we're in August, water just doesn't appear on the radar.  Suddenly, this week, we are stomping on the sheep trough twice daily, hauling kettle-hot water from the kitchen out to the chickens.  There's a blanket of "ice-water" about, but no farmer can rely on his or her animals to recognize it as water.

Cold spells bring special thrills and unique challenges.  Dylan brings out his coveted sled, his ski bib, his gloves.  We light candles (due to power outages) and gather together each evening in the light of the Christmas tree and votives.  But, chickens and sheep must cope with the limited offerings available to them and it's our job to make sure they survive.  Enough food?  Enough shelter?  Enough non-frozen water?  Non frozen water this morning turns into frozen water this afternoon at these temps, so water is a constant refrain when the thermometer dips below freezing.

No matter where you live, winter brings unique challenges.  And insights.    We struggle with heavy coats and big boots and longer get-ready times and somehow just getting to school seems harder.    But, here at least, where true winter is so very rare, it is special indeed.  We cherish the white stuff and kind of love the cold - except that we are so woefully ill-equipped to deal with it.  We don't have chains, we don't - until this week - have snow plows with sanding ability (thank you king county!!!!), we don't have winter mitties and hats and scarfs.  We're total neophites. We're amateurs.  

But, we know that.  That's why we live here.  And we bare our badge of shame with honor.  No, we cannot navigate a long, icy road.  No, we do not own balaclavas.  No, we would like to ski, but only if we can drive there.  

Snow is not our thing.

But, we are enjoying this snow, as long as it goes along it's merry way in a reasonable timeframe.  We're good-natured, we're just not stupid.

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